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Monday, November 15, 2010

It's in the details...

Now that the events of yesterday have had time to sink in, and our family has returned home from our trip to Colorado, I thought I'd post at least a few of my thoughts and memories of the marathon experience.
First of all, I have to say that as most of you know, this journey wasn't about just one day, it has been about the culmination of approximately 9 months of training, hard work and diligence.  During that time I had tried to mentally prepare myself for the anxiety or nervousness I knew I would be feeling on the cusp of the big event.  As the day approached and we were getting ready to head out of town, I was feeling surprisingly relaxed and only mildly nervous.  Unfortunately, there are some things that are out of my control, and as Murphy's Law dictates, those are the very things that can sneak in and sabotage any great man-made plan.  As I tried to get one restful night's sleep on Wednesday, before our planned early departure Thursday morning, my husband tossed and turned, until finally uttering the words : "Honey, you awake?  I'm really sick."  And sick he was.  By the time Thursday morning arrived, I had managed to eek out about 3 hours of sleep, and my poor husband was suffering some awful stomach flu symptoms.  Nevertheless, our trip began, as we started the 7 hour drive, having to make frequent stops, and I internally fretted about the possibility of me and the kids contracting the same flu and what that might mean for my race on Saturday.  For 9 months I have somehow managed to ward off virtually all illnesses, with only one head cold that I can remember during that time (during my half-marathon).  What are the odds that we would have the stomach flu run through our family the weekend of my first marathon?!

We eventually made it to the hotel in Fruita, Colorado, after a white-knuckle drive through Utah.  We tried to get settled in our room, went to the store to buy a few groceries, all the while I was feeling more and more stressed out about the looming possibilities. I was determined to not let all my hard work be for naught, but I kept thinking, how will I run 26.2 miles if I'm feeling nauseous?  That night, Thursday night, Chris started to feel better, but at around 11pm, after we had finally settled in to sleep, my husband and I were awakened to our 4 year old throwing up and crying.  Yep, here it comes.  I knew it.  The rest of that night's events are a blur.  He was up every couple of hours until morning, running to the toilet for one reason or another.  Oh, and at some point around midnight, my 9 year old also decided to join in the fun, and he also started regular vomiting.  Yeah, I think I got about 3 hours of sleep, for the second night in a row.  On Friday, our plan had been to let the kids swim in the hotel pool, relax and get ready for the race the next day. Again, Murphy thought it would be funny if the hotel pool/hot tub would be under repairs and closed for the first two days of our hotel stay. I was not happy. I'm not sure if I was more stressed about the fact that I was going on such little sleep going into race day, or worried about any twinge in my gut turning into full-blown stomach flu.

True to form, the marathon challenge continued as I mentally tried to conquer my emotions and control my anxiety level.  I spent most of Friday afternoon visiting with my friend and running companion.  We picked up our race packets in the evening, and then as our families gathered together at her home for a pre-race meal of pizza from Hot Tomatoes (at least those of us who still had an appetite), I felt distracted enough to make it through until it was time to go back to the hotel and attempt a good night's sleep.

I will say that, even though I woke up several times during the night due to nervous excitement, I actually slept pretty well.  No one was sick, and the kids all slept soundly.  At 4:30am, I felt wide awake, so I quietly got up and ate a banana, drank some water, then laid back down to try to sleep until 6, when my friend would be giving me my wake up call.  I was able to doze on and off for about another hour, but then I just gave in and got up and started getting ready.  I did some stretching, ate some raisins, got all my gear ready...and said a few prayers!  And thankfully, I have the most awesome husband on the planet.  I could tell he felt so badly when he was sick, worrying about how it was going to affect this day, but he was feeling better and stronger by Saturday morning.  He took care of the kids all day, made sure to get lots of photos of me and my running partner, the kids, the scenery, the race course, and anything else he thought we might later find meaningful, and he gave (and gives) me all the love, support and encouragement I could ever ask for.  One of the best parts of this whole experience, for me at least, has been being able to share every detail with my loving husband.

At 6:45am, my friend met me at the hotel, and we made our way over to the shuttle that would take all the runners to to the starting line.  Once I was with my dear friend, our camaraderie helped ease a lot of the nervousness and just being able to talk with each other helped the time slip by.  Once at the starting line, there wasn't much of a wait.  We were given our timing chips, which were in a strap we had to Velcro around our ankles.  It was a small crowd of runners, only about 200 of us.  Most of the Rim Rockers, as we came to be known, were more seasoned marathoners.  Those in the know would never willingly choose Rim Rock as the first timers marathon - yes, my friend and I were nuts!

Anyway, at 8am the start came, and we all took off.  I was feeling really good, but my friend, who had not had a very good night's sleep, was suffering a little bit of GI distress.  We had agreed to stick together, and just follow our bodies' lead, doing a run/walk combination as we saw fit.  Our goal was to finish, and finish together.

The weather could not have been more perfect.  It was cool - around 28 degrees when we started the race.  The sky was clear, and as the sun came up, it turned the red rock of the cliffs and canyons of the Colorado National Monument bright orange and pink.  As we made the twisting, turning 2100 foot elevation ascent during the first 11 or 12 miles, the scenery was breathtaking.  The hills were hard, I'm not going to lie.  We were huffing and puffing a little, but I was very happy with how things were going.  We were able to run a good portion of those first 10 miles, with some minimal walking breaks, particularly at aid stations, and any other time we needed them.  After we reached the high point, topping out at around 6450 feet above sea level, we were still feeling very good.  Tired, but good.  We were having so much fun and enjoying the run.  At some point around mile 13, we came around a curve to see my husband and kids!  It was a joyous moment for me, and gave me a boost in spirits that lightened our steps for a while.  After a few hugs and kisses, we took off running again.

Things continued to go well, as we used our method of running for as much as we could, then walking for a bit to catch our breath and recoup.  We made it to mile 20 at approximately 4 hours, which we were very pleased with considering all the crazy hills we had endured.  Unfortunately, at that point my companion's stomach troubles had worsened considerably.  She was so strong and tough, pushing through some very severe cramping.  We stopped at the aid stations, where we fueled as necessary.  I was starting to get worried about my friend, though.  She was having episodes of extreme lightheadedness, alternating with abdominal cramping, and I was just praying that she would pull through and we could finish strong together.  As her symptoms would come in waves of varying severity, we were able to run in spurts and gain some ground periodically on those last 6.2 miles, but unfortunately we weren't able to make full efficient use of those awesome down hills.  As we pushed through and made it to the point where we only had about 3 miles to go, I have to say that my hamstrings and the front of my lower legs were on fire, but thankfully the GI issues that I had experienced during some of my long training runs were kept under control with Imodium, and I was feeling pretty good in that sense.  At about that point we also saw my running partner's husband and kids on the sidelines to cheer us on and run with us for a minute, and again we got a much needed jolt of enthusiasm.

Finally we were on the home stretch.  Less than 3 miles to go.  The longest 3 miles EVER!  When we got to the turn off from the main road that took us down a short trail and into the park where the finish line was located, I could hear the cheering crowd and the music playing, and my heart was in my throat.  At that point, I couldn't hold back my emotions at all.  I saw my husband and kids, and with my running companion at my side, I was making the realization that we had done it!  We had gone 26.2 long and difficult miles,  running our hearts out, walking when we had to, we did it!  Though I had read many stories of other  people's first marathon experiences, it didn't prepare me for the sincere sense of accomplishment that comes with knowing we completed our goal and conquered something so difficult.

As far as my recovery has gone, I'm actually amazed at how great I feel.  I'm definitely sore, but I slept like a baby last night, and it's nothing worse than anything I've felt after my other long runs.  I'm already scheming in my head a plan for the next marathon I want to train for in the Spring of 2011, so I guess that means the running thing has gotten to me!

And finally, for those of you interested in race times, we didn't have a fast run.  Because of all that came into play, particularly during the last 6 or so miles and the walking that we needed to do, we weren't able to maintain our usual pace.  Our finish time was 5:49.  I figure, it was our first attempt, and hey, now there's definitely room for improvement!  :)


  1. You are so awesome! I thought about you all day on Saturday. Which race are you going to do in the spring?

  2. Congrats! Thats awesome and I bet the feeling is amazing!

  3. Well done it's sounds like you had an unforgettable experience. I'm looking forward to reading about and seeing the results of your next lot of marathon training.

  4. Very cool! I just ran Rim Rock for the third time yesterday; it's truly one of the most beautiful races in the country. Hope you come back to do it again some time.


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